The NFL is by far one of the most popular sports in the United States, so their free agency period is always a fun time for fans. NFL off-seasons tend to be extremely eventful because, when a player hits the open market, they more often than not move on from their current team. These moments tend to be absolute game changers to the league because when superstars leave their teams, it creates an all new atmosphere to the NFL. Yet, the most prolific position that sees players tend to move on from their teams are running backs. Losing a superstar running back is extremely detrimental to the offence because the running game is paramount to a team’s success. This is most evident when a team’s quarterback is a bit weak.
With all that has been stated, in this article we will be looking at eight running backs who will be leaving their squads and eight more who will be replacing them. This off-season has a handful of spectacular running backs available who will receive a bunch of attention when they are free agents. The players who are free agents also could end up changing the entire skill of the football team they join, while also immensely hurting their former clubs. Expect this off-season to be huge for the running backs of the NFL because they are essential pieces to a team’s offence. Do not be shocked when the NFL sees a bunch of these running backs wearing different jerseys next year. It will be an exciting time!
Nonetheless, let’s take at where these top running backs will end up and who will end up being their replacements.
16 Leaving: Jamaal Charles
The Denver Broncos simply have not been the same team since Peyton Manning retired. This year, they put up an absolutely terrible year and went 5-11. The Broncos have always had a winning culture so this simply cannot be tolerated and must change quickly. Yet, it is extremely important to note that they may end up losing their running back, Jamaal Charles.
Jamaal Charles may be one of the more attractive running back free agents this year and rightfully so. He is coming off a fairly decent season and easily can improve a team’s running game. Charles may elect to leave the Broncos because their future does not look bright right now without a solid quarterback on their roster. Denver may take the L this off-season.
15 Replacement: Kenjon Barner
It is going to be hard for the Denver Broncos to bring a replacement that can outplay Jamaal Charles. Not many players want to join a football club that is clearly on the decline and rightfully so. NFL players want the opportunity to win, especially if they are veterans. Yet, that does not mean that the Broncos will come out completely empty handed this off-season.
The Denver Broncos should expect to not receive much this off-season and will most likely end up with Kenjon Barner. Barner is not a bad football player, but he was not particularly a star this year either. Yet, Barner could benefit playing on a losing team like the Broncos because it would allow to receive far more chances on the field. It would be a win for him.
14 Leaving: Jeremy Hill
After a disappointing 7-9 regular season, it is very likely that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to have a retooling period this off-season. It is apparent that this roster simply could not get it done and will not any time soon. One player that comes to mind who may end up moving on from them is Jeremy Hill. He had a decent year, but he is replaceable.
Jeremy Hill will end up getting some interest from other NFL teams because he is one of the better running backs available in this free agency class. Hill most likely will want a change of scenery so he can have a taste of the NFL playoffs and it is easy to understand why.
13 Replacement: Alfred Morris
The Cincinnati Bengals will need to be aggressive this off-season and pick up a running back who can help them be over .500 again. The Bengals should heavily pursue a player like Alfred Morris because, although he may not be the best running back available, he still is a top notch player in the league and would come at a cheaper price.
Alfred Morris could definitely use a change of scenery for next season because the Dallas Cowboys are clearly dealing with a lot of issues. Their management is arguably one of the most hated in the entire NFL and with that, it may not be the best place for Morris to continue his career. He should elect to go to the Cincinnati Bengals to help the squad make the playoffs yet again.
12 Leaving: Orleans Darkwa
Orleans Darkwa will most likely be leaving the New York Giants because of their abysmal season. The Giants need to completely change up their roster and that may even include moving on from Eli Manning. Darkwa deserves the opportunity to play on a legitimate top notch football club. The Giants are definitely past their championship days now.
Orleans Darkwa will be receiving an abundance of offers from NFL teams because he was one of the only good players for the Giants this season. The Giants’ 3-13 record will definitely not be enough for Darkwa to want to stay there, so expect to see him move on to a better club. It will not be very hard for him to find a better team than the Giants with that abysmal record.
11 Replacement: Eddie Lacy
This off-season will be a tough one for the New York Giants, but not all hope is lost. There are many football players who would to have the chance to play in New York, so the Giants have that going for them. They probably will not score a superstar running back, but to save money, they should look to bring in a low risk, high reward type of player like Eddie Lacy.
Eddie Lacy has been a fairly productive running back in the NFL since he started playing in 2013. He is now a veteran who could help the New York Giants through their rebuild with his leadership abilities. Lacy may even benefit from joining a below average team because the extra playing time could help him regain his Pro Bowl form.
10 Leaving: Isaiah Crowell
This summer will be a dream come true for Isaiah Crowell because he will finally have the opportunity to leave the atrocious Cleveland Browns. It is disappointing that Crowell has had to spend his prime years in Cleveland, but change can finally come. Crowell will be one of the top running backs available this off-season and will be on a new team quickly.
Isaiah Crowell would be very wise to leave the Cleveland Browns because it is clear that there is no direct sign that positive changes are coming. That is apparent by the fact that the Browns managed to put up a 0-16 record this season. Yet, at age 25, Crowell now has the opportunity to spend his prime years with a team that can actually win some games.
9 Replacement: Brandon Bolden
The Cleveland Browns are in for a very rough off-season as well because it will be hard for them to find anyone who would be willing to join their team. Their 0-16 record is disgustingly terrible and what makes matters worse is that they have no clear indication of getting better. Yet, if the Browns are aggressive, they may be able to bring in veterans who are looking to continue their careers.
Brandon Bolden is a player who the Cleveland Browns may be able to bring in because he has seen limited action with the New England Patriots. This would benefit the Browns because it would give them a player who has been a part of a true NFL dynasty. In return, this could help Bolden’s career progress because he would be the go to guy on their roster.
8 Leaving: Frank Gore
Frank Gore has been one of the best running backs in the NFL through the entirety of his career and even with his older age, he still is dominating the game. Yet, it is important to note that Gore wants to win an NFL championship by the time his career is up. With that said, it is extremely unlikely that Gore will decide to stay with the Indianapolis Colts after their showing this season.
It is fair to assume that Frank Gore’s career is definitely on the downswing, so he will push to win now. Gore will be one of the most popular running backs available this off-season, so he will be leaving the Colts for a better organization. Expect Gore to be given the opportunity to finally get a Super Bowl Ring, as it is far overdue for the star running back.
7 Replacement: Andre Ellington
The Indianapolis Colts are definitely going to be in a bit of tough situation this off-season, but everything will turn around if Andrew Luck can stay healthy. Yet, this year’s negative season and Luck’s injury struggle will ultimately hurt the Colts’ chances of bringing in a legitimate superstar. So, when it comes to replacing Gore this off-season, it will be a loss for them.
If the Indianapolis Colts want to take a gamble on a running back, they should look at bringing in Andre Ellington. Although Ellington did not put up fantastic running numbers with the Houston Texans, he was great at receiving. Ellington is a player who may go under the radar as a free agent this off-season, so the Colts should jump on the possibility of bringing him in.
6 Leaving: Damien Williams
The Miami Dolphins need to continue to get better if they want to compete with the New England Patriots. At 6-10 this season, the Dolphins displayed the fact that they are not close to being a playoff team and that needs to change quickly. With that said, they may choose to let Damien Williams walk away this off-season so they can find some support for their running game.
The feeling may be mutual when it comes to Damien Williams because he may want the opportunity to play for a better team. Playing on a losing team in football is even more difficult because NFL careers are far shorter than any other sport. With that said, Williams will most likely look to move on with his free agent status this off-season.
5 Replacement: Kerwynn Williams
Even though the Miami Dolphins want to improve this season and put up a fight in their division, they may not attract a star running back. The Dolphins simply do not have the market or players that will make them an attractive spot for stars because they will not be a top tier team anytime soon. So with that, they may choose to go after a guy like Kerwynn Williams.
Kerwynn Williams may not be a game changing type of running back, but he definitely would be an upgrade from Damien Williams. Williams had a fairly decent season this year with the Arizona Cardinals and could benefit joining the Dolphins. The Dolphins will not become an instant threat with this signing, but Williams may be the best player they can attract right now.
4 Leaving: Charles Sims
Charles Sims is an under the radar type of running back, but that does not mean that he is not an effective player. Although he had a bit of a down year this season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a change of scenery may do him wonders in his career. If Sims decides to move on, he may have more of a chance to make a name for himself in the NFL.
Charles Sims should leave because it is apparent that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do not value him enough as a player. Sims should elect to join a football team where his presence is needed and where he could help build his resume. The market may be a bit weak for Sims, but at the end of the day, do not expect to see him back in Tampa Bay any time soon.
3 Replacement: Alfred Blue
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to move on from their abysmal 5-11 season this year, they desperately need to improve their running game. Yet, like the Miami Dolphins, the Buccaneers are not necessarily a hot team to join. There is a lot of uncertainty amongst their organization and a potential rebuild may be needed to help this club reach success yet again.
With that said, I believe the best bet for the Tampa Buccaneers to go after a decent running back like Alfred Blue. Alfred Blue was not necessarily a superstar this season, but he was very serviceable for the Houston Texans. Blue may end up getting a bigger raise as a free agent, but it would be worth it for the Buccaneers. They need help and extremely quickly.
2 Leaving: Rex Burkhead
Rex Burkhead has been a spectacular running back for the New England Patriots over the past few seasons, but now may be the time for him to try to cash out big. Burkhead has been one of the main reasons why the Patriots have been putting up the season they have so far, so expect him teams to be very aggressive in trying to add them to their rosters.
Although the New England Patriots are an outstanding football team, Rex Burkhead most likely will be moving on from them this summer. Burkhead may want the opportunity be a legitimate star on a football and the chance to be given more running plays. At the end of the day, it is unlikely that he will be given big money by the Patriots with their current roster.
1 Replacement: Le’Veon Bell
Le’Veon Bell may be the best running back available this off-season and will have the opportunity to join any team he likes. Before this past weekend, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Bell would be staying with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yet, after their major upset loss to the Jaguars, Bell may be considering moving on from them to play on a true contender.
If the New England Patriots want to steal Le’Veon Bell from the Steelers, it is their time to do it now. The Steelers completely failed this season and the way they went out may be indicating that they could be on the downswing. Although Bell’s price may end up being a bit expensive, the Patriots truly should jump on this opportunity. It could make them basically unbeatable.